Montana February 18, 2019
This Deadly Prison Can Only Be Found In Montana
Deer Lodge is a quiet, peaceful town these days, and the Old Montana Prison Complex is a fascinating place filled with local history. However, that wasn’t always the case. The prison was once home to the deadliest riot in state history, and it’s housed some of the nation’s deadliest criminals.
The Old Montana Prison Complex in located on Main Street in Deer Lodge.
These days, it's a museum that offers both self-guided and guided tours.
The old prison served as the Montana Territorial Prison from 1871 until Montana achieved statehood, then it was the primary penal institution for the State of Montana until 1979.
Prison is never a fun place to be, but this one was especially abysmal. It was plagued with constant overcrowding, insufficient funds, and antiquated facilities.
The overcrowded inmates were often mistreated and underfed, which led to some pretty irate prisoners.
And it wasn't exactly segregated. Young men arrested for something as simple as a joyride were put in cells with rapists and murderers.
In 1959, 70 years worth of tension finally reached a breaking point.
Jerry Myles and Lee Smart, two inmates, planned a riot. They took a total of 26 inmates and prison employees hostage, killing a deputy warden in the process.
The hostages were held for 36 agonizing hours (with two more dying) before the Montana National Guard was finally able to secure a plan to rescue the hostages and effectively end the riots.
A bazooka was fired into the tower Myles and Smart were holed up in, which is now known as the Death Tower.
The 1959 riot was the deadliest at the prison, but it wasn't the first.
Several other smaller riots in the late 1950s should have been a wake-up call for the staff. The mismanagement, insufficient guard staff, and intolerable living conditions made the prisoners feel as if they had nothing to lose.
Notable prison inmates include William Gollehon, a convicted serial killer on death row, and George Harold Davis, a white supremacist who eventually perpetrated the 2003 Ennis shooting.
Suspected serial killer Floyd Tapson also spent some time here.
Needless to say, the old prison is considered one of the most haunted buildings in Montana.
You can even take a ghost tour at night, if you dare.
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